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Different Kinds of Protein

Protein from animal sources, such as meat and milk, is called complete, because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. Most vegetable protein is considered incomplete because it lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. This can be a concern for someone who doesn't eat meat or milk products. But people who eat a vegetarian diet can still get all their essential amino acids by eating a wide variety of protein-rich vegetable foods.

For instance, you can't get all the amino acids you need from peanuts alone, but if you have peanut butter on whole-grain bread you're set. Likewise, red beans won't give you everything you need, but red beans and rice will do the trick.

The good news is that you don't have to eat all the essential amino acids in every meal. As long as you have a variety of protein sources throughout the day, your body will grab what it needs from each meal.

How Much Is Enough?

You can figure out how much protein you need if you know how much you weigh. Each day, kids need to eat about 0.5 grams of protein for every pound (0.5 kilograms) they weigh. That's a gram for every 2 pounds (1 kilogram) you weigh. Your protein needs will grow as you get bigger, but then they will level off when you reach adult size. Adults, for instance, need about 60 grams per day.

To figure out your protein needs, multiply your weight in pounds times 0.5 or you can just take your weight and divide by 2. For instance, a 70-pound (or 32-kilogram) kid should have about 35 grams of protein every day. If you only know your weight in kilograms, you need about 1 gram of protein each day for every kilogram you weigh.

You can look at a food label to find out how many protein grams are in a serving. But if you're eating a balanced diet, you don't need to keep track of it. It's pretty easy to get enough protein. Here's an example of how a kid might get about 35 grams of protein in a day:

- 2 tablespoons (15 milliliters) peanut butter (7 grams protein)
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) low-fat milk (8 grams protein)
- 1 ounce (30 grams) or two domino-size pieces of cheddar cheese (7 grams protein)
- 1.5 ounces (90 grams) chicken breast (10.5 grams protein)
- ½ cup (80 grams) broccoli (2 grams protein)

Of course, you can choose your own favorite combination of protein-rich foods — now that you're a pro at protein!

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